Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Meteorology and Physical Oceanography (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Amy C. Clement

Second Committee Member

Ben Kirtman

Third Committee Member

Tony Broccoli

Fourth Committee Member

Brian Soden

Fifth Committee Member

David Nolan


This study investigates modes of atmospheric variability in response to changes in Earth's orbit and changes in 20th century sea surface temperatures (SST). The orbital forcing is manifested by a change in obliquity and precession, and changes the distribution of the top-of-atmosphere insolation. A smaller obliquity reduces the the annual insolation that the poles receive and increases the annual insolation in the tropics. As the meridional insolation gradient increases, the zonal mean atmospheric-ocean circulation increases. The resulting climate also has a reduced global mean temperature due to the effect of climate feedbacks. This cooling can be attributed to a reduced lapse rate, increased cloud fraction. reduced water vapor in the atmosphere, and an increase in the surface albedo. A change in the precession, as the perihelion shifts from the winter to the summer solstice, causes a strengthening as well as an expansion of the N. Pacific summer subtropical anticyclone. This anticyclonic anomaly can be attributed to the weakening of the baroclinic activity, but also represents the circulation response to remote and local diabatic heating. The remote diabatic heating is associated with monsoonal activity in the SE Asia and North Africa. Regarding the 20th century SST forcing, it is represented by a multidecadal variability in the inter-hemispheric SST difference. This change in the SST causes a latitudinal shift in the ascending branch of the Hadley cell and precipitation in the tropics, as well as an increase in the atmospheric meridional heat transport from the warmer to the colder hemisphere.


obliquity; precession; subtropical highs; subtropical anticyclones; climate feedbacks; heat transport